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Public Perception. Perhaps the most significant result of all of this complexity is a general public perception that the Tax Code is unfair and unevenly enforced. The 2012 TAS report noted this perception: “In 2012, TAS conducted a statistically representative national survey of over 3,300 taxpayers who operate businesses as sole proprietors. Only 16 percent said they believe the tax laws are fair. Only 12 percent said they believe taxpayers pay their fair share of taxes.”
A 2004 IRS Oversight Board’s Taxpayer Attitude Survey indicated that about 20% of Americans believed that some degree of tax cheating is acceptable.
Page 4 of the President’s 2005 Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform stated: "[T]axpayers think that with the myriad of targeted exclusions, deductions, and credits, others may not be paying their fair share – so why should they? Some call this 'the cheat or chump syndrome.' In addition, clever tax advisors mine the complexity of the tax code to develop and market tax shelters and other schemes clearly designed to manipulate the tax code’s hidden loopholes for their clients’ exclusive benefit. The perception that the tax code is unfair and easily manipulated undermines voluntary compliance – the foundation of our tax system."
This public perception creates an environment where cheating on your taxes may seem justified. In a report issued January 7, 2012, the IRS reported that the following non-compliance numbers (dollars in billions):
2001 2006

Gross Tax Gap $345 $450

Voluntary Compliance 83.7% 83.1%

Underreported $285 $376

Non-Filing $27 $28

Underpayment $33 $46

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